The Elegant Universe


Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 1

String theory has the potential to show that all of the wondrous happenings of the universe . . . are reflections of one grand physical principle, one master equation.

This quotation summarizes what Greene means when he commends the “elegance” of physics. Greene finds it impossible to believe that the universe operates along incompatible frameworks. String theory has set out to show that the “frantic dance of subatomic quarks” and the “stately waltz of orbiting binary stars” are intimately interconnected—that is, that they are facets of the same coherent set of laws. Greene frequently employs musical language like “frantic dance” and “stately waltz” to convey the harmonizing power of superstring theory. To describe their constant vibrational patterns, he compares the strings of superstring theory to those on a violin. The entire structure of the universe can be imagined as an infinite number of instruments joining together in what Greene calls a “cosmic symphony.”

Greene never dismisses the importance of aesthetic coherence in both art and nature. And it is the evidence of the “one grand physical principle, one master equation” that first attracted him to string theory. For Greene, “elegance” describes the inexhaustible complexity of the universe arising from a single theory. Only string theory has attempted to unify the “primordial fireball of the big bang” with the “majestic swirl of heavenly galaxies.” As far as Greene is concerned, the ambition to find coherence is itself sufficient reason to examine string theory in greater depth.